TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - It has been talked about for years and Wednesday, Toledo and its water customers are closer than ever before to forming a regional water authority.
They signed a memorandum of understanding Wednesday morning as part of a ceremony at the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce recognizing their success.
It was a packed house at the Chamber of Commerce as city leaders gathered to celebrate this moment.
Each city's mayor or representative was given a chance to make a short speech.
After that, Toledo and its eight customers signed the memorandum followed by an applause. They are calling this signing of the memorandum a step in the right direction.
The Toledo Area Water Authority, also called TAWA, will be an independent organization governed by a separate board of directors who will equalize rates across the region.
Officials say they are taking steps that have needed to be taken for a long time now.
"For decades we've talked about the need for regionalism we've talked about the regional need for cooperation and we just never seem to do it," Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz said.
"If you had asked me even a month ago if we would be signing this my answer would have been no," Mayor of Maumee, Richard Carr stated. "There's issues that had to be resolved, and at the very end we came together and got it done."
"We just depoliticized water," Commissioner Pete Gerken explained. "We're on the way of making sure water is a public resource, not a political weapon. It's taken two decades to get here but we're here. There's great leadership on all the partners of this, this is almost like Lincoln's team of rivals. We came in as a team of rivals and we ended up as a team."
Officials say it will be funded through wholesale and retail services rates and issue revenue bonds. However, it will not have property taxing authority.
Mayor Kapszukiewicz cites this authority as crucial.
"Our suburban partners will leave if we don't pull this off," Mayor Kapszukiewicz explained.
He adds customers of Toledo could end up paying three times more than what they do now if the creation of this regional authority did not happen.
"We can't afford to let that happen," Mayor Kapszukiewicz said.
This all now has to be filed in the Lucas County Common Pleas Court before the authority can become official.
It's important to understand that water rates are going to go up, but they would have gone up even higher if city officials did not move forward with this deal.
They have until mid March to petition the court to formally establish this new authority.